UA, UAMS Researchers Awarded $10.8M to Establish Metabolic Research Center

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Researchers at the University of Arkansas and University of Arkansas for Medical Sciences have won a $10.8 million grant that will establish the Arkansas Integrative Metabolic Research Center as an National Institutes of Health-designated Center of Biomedical Research Excellence.

The five-year NIH grant will fund research into the role of cell and tissue metabolism in diseases such as cancer, diabetes, obesity and mitochondrial disorders.

“Our center will support important scientific contributions not only in specific biomedical fields associated with metabolic diseases but also broader contemporary research on metabolism, exploring issues such as the sensitivity of mitochondrial biomarkers to explain the onset and progression of rare and common diseases,” Kyle Quinn, the associate professor of biomedical engineering who will serve as the center’s director, said in a news release. 

“Ultimately, the center will help cultivate a critical mass of researchers determined to solve multiple human health problems with metabolic underpinnings that have been particularly devastating in Arkansas and the southeastern United States, such as cancer, diabetes and obesity.”

Researchers say the center will expand economic opportunities in Arkansas by establishing partnerships with technology companies in the state, creating new biotech startups in northwest Arkansas and providing mentorship, training and employment to faculty, prospective students and biomedical technicians.

The center will have three research cores:

  • Imaging and spectroscopy, directed by Narasimhan Rajaram, associate professor of biomedical engineering, which will provide non-invasive measures of metabolism in cells, tissues and animals. It will also offer spectroscopy, confocal and wide-field imaging services.
  • Bioenergetics, directed by Shilpa Iyer, assistant professor of biological sciences, which will provide guidance and services to measure cellular respiration using a live-cell metabolic flux analyzer. It will also provide support for analyzing mitochondrial dynamics and oxidative stress in 2D-3D disease models, using flow cytometry and high content screening platforms.
  • Data science, directed by Justin Zhan, professor in the Department of Computer Science and Computer Engineering, which will provide support for advanced analytics, including various artificial intelligence approaches to understanding large imaging, metabolic, genomic and proteomic datasets.

The center will also house four research projects led by junior faculty members:

  • Young Hye Song, assistant professor of biomedical engineering, will evaluate the role of metabolism in tumor innervation and metastasis.
  • Chenguang Fan, assistant professor of biochemistry, will study the phosphorylation of enzymes involved in cancer metabolism.
  • Adam ParĂ©, assistant professor of biological sciences, will study relationships between cell signaling and mitochondrial dynamics.
  • Isabelle Racine Miousse, assistant professor of biochemistry and molecular biology at UAMS, will evaluate the effect of dietary manipulation on cancer therapy.